Flow | Moods, feelings and colours

Colours, moods and feelings have been favourite subjects in the context of raga, literally “colour, beauty, pleasure, passion and compassion”.1

We are aware that the ultimate aim of every composer and musician is to achieve the coalescence, the essential factors of classical music namely bhava, raga and tala. | Learn more >>

Explore this wonderful realm in imaginative ways – always in accordance with your own creativity and feelings

Suggestions for widening the scope for the “Flow”-exercises offered in this course:

  • Alternate the singing of svara syllables with humming (-m):
    – lines wherein 3-2-3 svaras are highlighted become “3 svaras sung + 2 svaras hummed + 3 svaras sung”
    – lines wherein 8 svaras are highlighted become “4 svaras sung + 4 svaras hummed”
  • Instead of humming (-m), extend the vowel found in the preceding svara variant (-a, -i)
  • As always, “be patient” …

To get going, click on “Details” and enjoy your practice!


Select one of the exercises offered here:

  • 7 notes: Any sampurna (melakarta) raga
  • 5 notes: raga Mohana
  • 6 notes: raga Kuntalavarali
  • 6 notes: ragas Sriranjani & Hamsanandi

Listen to Uma Ramasubramaniam demonstrating the svaras (notes) for the present raga(s) on Raga Surabhi >>

Practice with basic “Sa” = G#
Note: this recording has no fifth note “Pa”
(as advised for those janya ragas wherein “Pa” will not be sung or played)
Download this audio file (2 MB, 2 min. mono)
Credit: eSWAR / FS-3C Sruthi petti + Tanjore Tambura

Here comes another challenge


Designed for anyone in search of new “Flow-” horizons through music:

  • Vary the vowels of svara syllables: –a, -i and -u yield ra-ri-ru, ga-gi-gu, ma-mi, dha-dhi-dhu, na-ni-nu.2
  • Examples
    – in raga Sankarabharanam (seven notes, mela 29), the variants sung are: “sa ri gu ma pa dhi nu3
    – these variants also apply to many janya ragas like Hamsadhvani: “sa ri gu pa nu” (five notes)
    – in melakarta raga Gamanasrama (seven notes, mela 53), the corresponding variants are: “sa ra gu mi pa dhi nu
    – its janya raga Hamsanandi (six notes) lacks pa: “sa ra gu mi dhi nu
    – other variants apply to janya raga Sriranjani: “sa ri gi ma dhi ni
    – the “parent raga” for Sriranjani (six notes) is Kharaharapriya (seven notes, mela 22) to which the following variants apply: “sa ri gi ma pa dhi ni”
  1. To learn more about the association of sound with colour, search the internet using the term “synesthesia”; according to a source cited on Wikipedia “individuals rarely agree on what color a given sound is”.[]
  2. These variations traditionally serve as memory aids (mnemonics) even if hardly used today:
    a” for the lowest variant, “i” for the middle one, and “u” for the highest one, always depending on the melakarta raga a given janya raga is associated with.[]
  3. Please remember: sa and pa never vary (though pa is sometimes omitted altogether); ri, ga, dha and ni have three variants each (-a, -i and -u); and ma has two variants (-a and -i).[]

Flow | Mela practice

sa = middle octave (madhya sthayi), ‘sa = higher octave (tara sthayi)

The present “Flow” series of exercises is meant to supplement the comprehensive standard syllabus (abhyasa ganam) attributed to 
16th c. composer Purandara Dasa >>

Concept & images © Ludwig Pesch | Feel free to share in accordance with the 
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license >>

Explore renditions of raga Mayamalavagaula, raga (Dhira)Sankarabharanam and raga (Meca)Kalyani on YouTube >>
Listen to two kritis in ragas
Simhendramadhyamam and Sankarabharanam (6th and 7th items)
sung by Bhushany Kalyanaraman >>
Find song lyrics (composers) & translations for these and other ragas >>
Practice with basic “Sa” = G#
Download this audio file (2 MB, 2 min. mono)
Credit: eSWAR / FS-3C Sruthi petti + Tanjore Tambura

Become fluent with the help of svara syllables (solmisation): practice a series of exercises, each based on a set of melodic figures that lend themselves to frequent repetition (“getting into flow”) | Practice goal, choosing your vocal range & more tips >>

South Indian conventions (raga names & svara notation): karnATik.com | Guide >>

raagam: mAyAmALavagauLa
Aa: S R1 G3 M1 P D1 N3 S | Av: S N3 D1 P M1 G3 R1 S

raagam: shankaraabharaNam 
Aa: S R2 G3 M1 P D2 N3 S | Av: S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

raagam: kalyANi
Aa: S R2 G3 M2 P D2 N3 S | Av: S N3 D2 P M2 G3 R2 S

Listen to Uma Ramasubramaniam demonstrating the svaras (notes) for the present raga(s) on Raga Surabhi >>

Practice with basic “Sa” = G#
Note: this recording has no fifth note “Pa”
(as advised for those janya ragas wherein “Pa” will not be sung or played)
Download this audio file (2 MB, 2 min. mono)
Credit: eSWAR / FS-3C Sruthi petti + Tanjore Tambura

The above svara pattern may be sung, hummed or practiced silently with any svara variants: those you are already familiar with (e.g. raga Mayamalavagaula, mela 15, raga Dhirasankarabharanam, mela 29, raga Mecakalyani, mela 65) or any other you want to practice.

Once internalized you may want to contemplate and remember the same exercise with the help of the “8 x 8 beads” pattern shared here >>

Enjoy practicing by way of gradually getting into a state of flow: deep concentration while feeling completely absorbed by an activity.

And with a rich store at our fingertips in the digital age, let’s remind ourselves that there really is no such thing as a ‘learner’ raga’; a fact that sets us free to explore any raga with a sense of wonder: through joyful – active – involvement, whatever level or age group we happen to occupy!

The long-term goal is to become fluent in all the 72 melakarta ragas (including those rarely heard). In this manner it becomes easier to recognize both, melakarta and janya ragas, by distinguishing their characteristic notes even when modulated or “embellished” in accordance with classical conventions (gamaka). Their application is demonstrated in an elegant, highly instructive video (duration: 7 min.): The 13-part Sanskrit composition of Chitravina N Ravikiran. For a more detailed application, listen to Smt Kiranavali’s students at Cleveland Aradhana (Part 1) | Part 2 >>

Learn more and download a free mela-pocket guide here: Boggle Your Mind with Mela (BYMM) method – free mini course >>

For learners interested in staff notation for the above ragas and more, also check this course author’s reference work:

Find a copy of the Oxford Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music

There really is no such thing as a ‘learner’ raga

Image © The Hindu >>

Gouri Dange, The Hindu, 11 May 2019 | Read the full article here >>

Every kind of music has a protocol for ‘beginners’ or ‘learners’. Students must practise paltay, alankaras, scales, études, tonalisation exercises, depending on the kind of music they pursue.  […]

However, here’s the rub: for many learners, these ‘early’ ragas get translated in the mind as something very basic, or ‘shikau’, with a novice ring to them. They are seen, most misguidedly, as mundane, without the strut and stature of the ‘larger and later’ ragas that are taught after you are deemed fit to learn them.  […]

It is surely a disservice to a raga and to those who lift it to its best potential, and even more so a disservice to the young student, to allow the mental stamping of some ragas as ‘learner material’.  […]

The novelist, counsellor and music lover takes readers on a ramble through the Alladin’s cave of Indian music.


Purandara Dasa (1484-1564), a prolific poet-composer and mystic of Vijayanagar, introduced a music course that is followed to the present day. Since the 17th century, hundreds of ragas (melody types) have been distributed among 72 melakarta ragas (scales).

Learn & practice more

Beyond performing competence: Students set to become good teachers and informed citizens as well

By S. Sankaranarayanan in Sruti (1998) | Excerpts that remain relevant today:

Observations on the teaching of music at the Rotterdam Conservatory, Holland:

Along with theory and history of music, the students [at the Rotterdam Conservatory] also acquire knowledge of ancillary aspects such as voice modulation and the reading and writing of notation. However, weightage is given to performing competence. […] As a means of widening their musical horizons, the students are encouraged to have exposure to other systems of music as well. […] Training in teaching methods is also imparted to the students so that they can become good teachers.

Along with music, the students are given a wide ranging and comprehensive liberal education so that, at the end of the course, they become not only competent musicians and/or teachers but informed citizens as well.

Dr. Suvarnalata Rao, Research Scientist at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (Mumbai)

Role of Research in Music Education

The lakshya sampradaya of music which is passed from guru to sishya gets altered when music is performed in a recital. This happens because of the elements of ‘entertainment’, such as indulgence in virtuosity or novelty for its own sake, and playing to the gallery. Because many performers also happen to be teachers, such changes, subtle and not so subtle, that creep into the recitals also influence the teaching , including the course content of contemporary music education. Only a researcher can observe and point out such deviation s to the artists, as no performer can be his own critic unless he has a bent for research which is rather rare. It is for the practitioners either to accept or not to accept the researcher’s findings. However, to be effective, a researcher (and for that matter, a musicologist or critic too) should be be able to perform, though not necessarily as a concert performer; otherwise his opinion would carry little weight.

[Commentary by S. Sankaranarayanan: It should, however, be remembered that, firstly, theory is not an unalterable entity and, secondly, theory itself is a codification of practices, though quite often it is one generation behind the latter. Fortunately, music has an admirable tradition of accomodating change].

Dr. N. Ramanathan, [former] Head of the Department of Indian Music at the University of Madras

Read the full report: https://sruti.com/articles/spotlight/teaching-of-indian-music >>

More resources | Disclaimer >>

Boggle Your Mind with Mela (BYMM) method – free mini course

Have you been looking for a fun way of memorizing the 72 melakarta names and numbers, finding them “mind bending” rather than “mind boggling” until now?

Here’s one method that may work – if you are ready to practice it for a few minutes every day; like passing time while waiting in queues or commuting, or unable to fall asleep. Silently so … such is the beauty and usefulness of the melakarta system.

Take today’s date (or your favorite musician’s birthday) in the format you commonly use (DD-MM or MM-DD, here we’ll use DD-MM)

12-07 for 12 July

Pick the corresponding mela numbers from the list available here (a special gift for all motivated learners):

There you look up the number pair for any given date, for instance:

12 = Rūpāvati R-P=21><12
07 = Sēnāvati S-N=70><07

Tip: if interested, find more explanations on page 2 to understand how the Kaṭapayādi sūtra is being applied to the names of 72 mēḷakartā rāgas (“melas”).

Remember how “yesterday … your troubles seemed so far away?”

11-07 for 11 July … so keep moving forward and backward after getting today’s numbers and names right, to start with.

You got it, all ready to go for days and weeks to come: because that date, too, is another day; one bound to become a memorable one with the help of the Boggle Your Mind with Mela (BYMM) method.

What’s next? Here are some suggestions:

  • find the actual DD-MM date in the Western calendar which corresponds to “72 October 2021”
  • or any other DD-MM date you consider booking a ticket and attend the Chennai December Season
  • if motivated to do so: memorize the entire list of 72 melas in batches of 10 (rather than 6): you’ll spot the patterns more easily
  • apply mela numbers in order to remember daily matters: birthdays, holidays or passwords – you name it
  • print the above PDF-attachment, then fold the sheet along the lines “accordeon style”: this yields a neat, visiting card size BY-MM paper-app (battery free for 24/7 use)
  • use it as a gift for fellow music lovers interested in this subject

Just one more thing as regards general well being
Although it seems unlikely you didn’t know yet: remember how good walking is for both, one’s mental and physical health? For our brains and moods … even for learning all the 72 mela ragas by heart in a stress-free manner.

So I gladly recommend listening to the following podcast episode by BBC Crowd Science:
Why is standing more tiring than walking?

So keep walking, and rather than talking, boggle your mind through mela memorization whenever you are out there – enjoy!

Ludwig Pesch on Ratnāngi-Sēnāvati-Kharaharapriya Day (02-07-22)

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